Red Carpet Ready after her Eight Belles (G2) victory May 5 at Churchill Downs (Daniella Ricci/Past The Wire)
NYRA Press Office
ELMONT, N.Y.— Ashbrook Farm and Upland Flats Racing’s dual graded stakes-winner Red Carpet Ready was set to make her Empire State debut in the June 8 Jersey Girl at Belmont Park, but had her plans derailed when poor air quality forced the cancelation of that day’s card. With clearer skies one month later, the Rusty Arnold trainee is back on track for a start in New York in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Victory Ride, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for sophomore fillies, at Belmont.
“She’ll be leaving from Keeneland tomorrow afternoon and arrives at Belmont on Thursday morning,” said Arnold. “She’s trained well and we had a little bit more of a gap than we wanted to have, but she’s had three good, solid works here. She’s happy and ready to go.”
The daughter of Oscar Performance flaunts the most graded stakes experience in the field of eight and was last seen posting a gutsy head score over resurgent pacesetter Munnys Gold in the Grade 2 Eight Belles on May 5 at Churchill Downs. There, she pounced from just off the pace under Luis Saez to take command at the top of the lane and battle back against her game foe, handing the Todd Pletcher trainee her first loss in four outings. She was awarded a career-best 92 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of any in the Victory Ride field.
Arnold said he is hopeful Red Carpet Ready’s performance against a then-undefeated Munnys Gold bodes well for the challenge she’ll face against undefeated competitors Maple Leaf Mel and the Brad Cox-trained Dazzling Blue in the Victory Ride.
“She ran well,” said Arnold. “Todd’s filly was undefeated and she’s going to hook two undefeated fillies in this race with Maple Leaf Mel and Brad’s filly – they’ve never been beaten and we have. There’s two very good fillies right there and a few other good ones as well. It’s a lot tougher race than the one we didn’t run in [the Jersey Girl].”
The talented dark bay has won 4-of-5 starts, including the Grade 3 Forward Gal in February at Gulfstream Park and the Fern Creek going the Victory Ride distance in November at Churchill. Her lone defeat came in the Grade 2 Davona Dale in March, where she finished third, seven lengths behind the victorious Dorth Vader, who went on to finish a close second to Pretty Mischievous in the Grade 1 Acorn presented by Great Jones Distilling Co. three starts later.
“I think six and a half [furlongs] will actually suit her better,” said Arnold. “When she ran in the Eight Belles, she opened up a clear lead at the sixteenth pole and hung on in the end, but I think that’s the end of how far she wants to go – six and a half won’t be an issue.”
Red Carpet Ready’s career has been laced with ups and downs that have shaped its trajectory, for better or worse. Arnold had planned to debut the filly on turf considering her pedigree’s strong grass influence, but was forced to run her on dirt when Churchill canceled turf racing last fall. She relished a sloppy main track on debut in October, defeating a field of 12 by 10 lengths at odds of 36-1.
“I guess she surprised some people in her first start, but she had shown ability,” said Arnold. “I think the surprise was the surface. She’s by Oscar Performance and at the time, there had not been a winner for him on the dirt. It’s a little different now, but last fall people questioned her pedigree, not her ability. When she won, everyone – including myself – thought it was the slop and weren’t convinced. But then she did it on fast dirt twice in a row and ran her big race in the Eight Belles.”
With the cancelation of the Jersey Girl being the latest unexpected turn in Red Carpet Ready’s career, Arnold said he is hopeful it leads to a happy surprise on Saturday just as her affinity for the main track has.
“She was one of the good things that happened to us off of losing the turf,” said Arnold. “It’s been a really weird year for her and she was going to run the last week at Churchill, but that was canceled. We had to decide to either wait for Ellis Park or go to New York. She was ready to roll so we decided to go to New York, and who would have thought it would be canceled by a fire in Canada? We’ve regrouped and I liked the timing of this race.”
The Victory Ride is named in honor of the filly Arnold trained to victory in the 2001 Grade 1 Test, a race slated for August 5 that Red Carpet Ready could target provided she gives a strong performance Saturday.
“I know stories don’t mean anything in this business, but after having trained Victory Ride, it would be nice to win this race,” said Arnold. “This race started off as almost an overnight handicap and now it’s worked its way up to a very nice prep for the Test. You’d like to have this [win photo] hanging there, but she’s going to have to work for it. The Test is the ultimate goal, but like the old cliché, one at a time. She has to take this step to get to the next ones.”
Red Carpet Ready will emerge from post 8 in rein to Saez.